Needy, Greedy Me

It’s been nearly four months since I talked to the girl I had called “best friend” for many years of my life.

The circumstances were weird: I was on the verge of getting out of the Navy.  She was struggling with having feelings for a man who was not her husband.  Both of us were facing major, major changes in our lives and the way in which we’d been living them.  I had assumed we would help each other through those transitions.

My mum has always told me that one person can’t be everything you need in life.  It’s probably the best relationship advice I’ve ever gotten.  It applies to every sort or relationship: romantic, platonic, familial…it even applies in the workplace.  You simply cannot get everything you need in a relationship from one person in your life.  They are going to disappoint you, and you are going to disappoint them.  They’re going to have other obligations, just as you are.  Their lives are as complex and complicated as yours.

I had come to lean very heavily on my friendship with Michele.  Especially before I entered my current relationship.  We called, texted, emailed…we were co-writing a story together, planning shopping trips, all sorts of things.  We spent a lot of time together, even if it wasn’t physically.  But Michele has a husband and a toddler.  She was ( is? ) struggling in her marriage and her baby girl has recently been diagnosed with high-functioning autism.  Here I was, demanding her attention, insisting she take time out for me when her situation was already quite stressful and complex.  And these days, it really is easy to bug the hell out of someone, isn’t it?  Emails and Facebook and text messaging, all accessible on phones we take with us everywhere.

To top it off, you just plain outgrow people in time.  After being friends for nearly ten years, Michele and I were finally approaching a place in our lives where there were more differences between us than similarities.  I, for instance, do not have any children.  I have never been married.  And the little things were changing too: Michele’s new friends were into hardcore music, so she became increasingly involved in that scene.  She went from loving comic books and geekery to only being interested in hardcore music.  As her tastes changed and developed, it was harder and harder for us to find any common ground.  Which was a little scary for me, because although I had other friends, particularly friends that worked with me in the Navy, she was my only long-term friend.

I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to have long-term, even lifelong, friendships.  I know people who have been friends, literally, from birth.  I know it’s possible to maintain healthy relationships over a span of many years, and even across many, many miles.  But for us, it wasn’t possible.  She was my best friend.  And I had come to rely on her just a little too much.  I expected her to fill too many needs.  And her other relationships were heading in a very destructive path.

In the end, we had one of those horribly personal fights.  The kind of fight that you can only have with people who have known you better and longer than anyone else.  I don’t know if we will ever talk again.  I feel angry with her, I believe she has acted in a very selfish manner toward me and many others in her life.  Then again, I’m sure she feels the same way about me.  But I miss her, too, even if we drained rather than inspired each other at the end.

The moral of the story for me is to cut the people in my life a little slack, especially my boyfriend.  I know that it’s healthier ( and more fun, in the end ) to enjoy each person in my life for what they bring to it, and not to cling too hard to them.  And I know that I can’t rely on Mike to be the only strong relationship in my life.  He is a friend as well as my boyfriend, but he can’t be my only friend…that’s too much to ask of him.  I wouldn’t want him to put that kind of pressure on me, either.

It’s been a painful lesson to learn, and some of the laughter has definitely gone out of my life now that Michele is not in it.  But in the end, I think I’ll be a better friend and girlfriend because of it.

  • They Come and Go (shanmarie29.wordpress.com) – A really good argument about maintaining old relationships, which I agree with ( as long as they’re healthy ).

Thinking About Grief

I am, and let’s just start by saying this because it should be said from the beginning, absolutely terrible at keeping blogs.  Absolutely terrible.  There, forewarned is forearmed.

My brother died almost two and a half years ago.  The event has completely reshaped my life.  Luke is on my mind now all the time; he is the first thought when I wake up, the last thought before I sleep.  I feel constantly compelled to tell people around me that I haven’t forgotten him.  It’s like I’m afraid of their judgement: if I don’t remind them that Luke’s loss is still prevalent, they will think I’m selfish and wrapped completely in the progression of my own life.  But I can’t talk about him too much, because the flip side of that coin is that people might then think I’m not dealing with my grief, that my mental health might not be what it should.

The truth is that these are silly things to think, to be afraid of.  The only person that’s worried about it is me, and I suspect that it’s yet another facet of the grieving process.  I’m doing as well as I can with it.  They tell you that every person grieves differently, but you’ll never know how true that is until you yourself are grieving.  It is, unfortunately, the worst time to find out, and the only time you can.

I still cry a lot.  So do my parents.  My father will talk to me about it for hours in the middle of the night, but hardly talks to my mum about it at all.  I don’t say much when he opens up.  Dad just needs to say it out loud.  On the other hand, my mother and I have very powerful but very brief conversations about Luke, both of us taking turns listening.  The problem is that it is still shockingly, achingly painful.  When I talk to my mum or listen to my dad, it is like an ice-cold fist closing around my heart.  It is just as painful as those first few days.  My chest doesn’t work right, and my heart aches.  They don’t tell you that after two years, it will still feel this way.

But then again, after a year has passed, a lot of people don’t talk about grief.  It’s awkward — the friends who are not grieving do not want to inadvertantly cause pain or bring up solemn memories.  And the grievers, the people like me, don’t know if they want to tell all the stories they can remember or just muscle on silently, hording their memories.  Or at least, that’s how I feel.  I’m not sure how much, how often, or if I should share Luke with anyone.

The years don’t make telling people who don’t know any easier, either.  In fact, in my case, getting the words out is almost harder.  And how do you say it?  Quickly, a burst of the truth, not to be dwelt upon?  Solemnly?  With the immediate assurance that you are glad you had the time that you did?  I always immediately want to tell people it’s okay when they apologize for not knowing.  But the thing is, it’s not okay.  It will never be okay again.  He was 22 years old.  There is nothing okay about death.  It might be natural, and of course none of us will get out alive, but it’s not okay.

I have, and am eternally grateful for, found a man that understands what I’m going through.  My boyfriend Mike lost his mother as a boy, and knows that sometimes if I get quiet, or if I silently insist on a hug, that I am missing my baby brother.  How could I not miss him?  Luke loved life and people like no one else I ever met, and his loss is still a giant hole in my chest.

Mike knows.  He doesn’t try to talk about how Luke is still with us, somehow, or that he’s watching over me.  Instead, Mike carefully pulls me to his chest, and tells me it’s okay to still be grieving.

And if someone is reading this and is also grieving, I don’t care how long it’s been: a day, a month, or fifteen years.  It’s okay to still be grieving.  It’s something I’m still trying to learn myself, but it needs to be said and said again.